Death Toll Continues To Rise
A STAMPEDE AT THE ALLAHABAD RAILWAY station in India after overcrowding on a footbridge caused people to fall Sunday and sent hundreds of pilgrims into a panic. The Hindu festival Kumbh Mela began on January 14 and continues until March 10. The largest religious gathering in the world held once every 12 years brings literally tens of millions of visitors to the small city to ceremonially bathe in the Sang am – the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.
Read the Firegeezer background article and video on the preparations taken by the local fire department, "Gearing Up For The Pilgrimage" posted last month HERE.
An early report just in from Reuters tells:
An overcrowded railway station footbridge buckled and a railing collapsed, sending some people slipping down the stairs and triggering the stampede, a top state government official told Reuters, not wishing to be quoted by name.
"I can confirm that 18 people have died and 13 have been injured," said the official.
In the two months from the start of the festival in January, officials believe as many as 100 million people will have passed through a temporary city that covers an area larger than Athens on a wide sandy river bank.
Hindu holy men and pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganges to wash away lifetimes of sins. Sunday was believed to be the most auspicious day of the festival.
The police officials have since retracted the claim of the bridge collapsing and are now saying that people stumbling on the stairs triggered the reaction.
NDTV has raised the death count to
20 30 and added this report:
The stampede happened at around 7 pm on a footbridge between platform number 5 and 6 of the railway station. There were lakhs of people at the station, many on their way back from Allahabad after a holy dip in the Ganga at the Maha Kumbh Mela; today was 'Mauni Amavasya', considered the most auspicious day of bathing during the 12-yearly congregation.
According to eyewitnesses, the stampede happened after the police lathi-charged to control the crowd. Divisional Railway Manager Harinder Rao, however, claimed that people were not lathi-charged and the police only attempted to regulate the movement of the crowd by asking passengers to stand in line. A police officer said an estimated 4,000 people were present at one single point at the site of the stampede.
The relatives of the victims have complained that the authorities took more than two hours to act after the incident. They say there was only one doctor at the station attending to several people who were injured in the stampede.
"At least four to five people died at the station because they were not taken to the hospital for two hours," said an eyewitness. According to the Press Trust of India, bodies of 10 victims were lying at the station three hours after the incident.
(Officials blamed the tardiness of the police and rescue squads on heavy traffic….Ed.)
NewsX grabbed some video from the train platform that gives an indication of the triage challenge facing the rescuers. (Firegeezer says, What triage?)
The New York Times has more details and a later report HERE.
Thanks to Mark D.
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